Answered By: Archives & Library Staff @The Henry Ford
Last Updated: Sep 21, 2017 Views: 635



 Camp Legion

Henry Ford started Camp Legion in 1938 for underprivileged boys  age 17-19, mostly sons of dead or disabled WWI vets but also those  helping to support their families. The original camp, set up in the Dearborn area, was held in the summer months, teaching boys farming, management, and sales skills. Ford provided room and  board and paid the boys $2 a day for their labor.  The boys were  taught how to prepare fields, plant, raise crops, and harvest the  produce. All during the summer they sold their produce at a roadside  market that Ford built and also sold wholesale to Ford Motor Company and other retail outlets in the area. At the end of each year the campers split the profits from the produce sales among themselves. The boys stayed only one season, and then were either placed in a Ford job or entered into the Ford Trade School or Apprentice School, or struck out on their own.

Early on, the boys slept in tents, with the kitchen/mess hall, roadside market, and chapel being the only structures on the property. The chapel was one of the six Martha Mary chapels Ford built. In 1943, Ford decided to run the camp year round and built a wood barracks, the boys farmed in the summer, and in the winter made small tools for Willow Run. Academic classes were also added to the camp in 1943. Under the administration of the Henry Ford Trade School headed by Frederick Searle, classes were taught in basic academic subjects as well as management, mechanics, and farming.

In 1944 the camp program was modified to include the rehabilitation of WWII disabled vets, though the boys remained even when the veteran program started. This program invited all veterans who were given a medical discharge, though the camp preferred those with physical disabilities. Veterans worked at their own pace to learn skills to integrate themselves back into the workplace. In late 1945, the camp was changed back to a program for boys and the veterans program ceased in 1946. Buildings for the Trade School were erected and a new program of training for the boys in trades, supervisory roles, sales and service was started which lasted until 1952 when the camp was shutdown.


Camp Willow Run

With the success of Camp Legion, Henry Ford decided to start a second endeavor, Camp Willow Run, in 1939 near Ypsilanti. Using the same principles and methods as Camp Legion, this second camp taught farm training, self-reliance, management, and salesmanship. Like the first camp, the boys governed themselves, appointing a foreman and field foreman from their own ranks. They lived in tents, with a mess hall and a chapel on-site, and sold their produce from a roadside stand built by Ford. Boys in both camps had time for recreation as well as work, each camp had a baseball diamond and the boys participated in a softball league, there was also volleyball and handball, movies were shown, and each camp also hosted harvest dances, inviting nearby high school students to join. It appears that Camp Willow Run shut down after the 1941 season with the coming of the bomber plant, many of the boys went to work at the Willow Run village industry plant, and others moved on to the apprentice and trade school.




   Acc. 23 General Personal Records series
      box 9 Camp Legion and Willow Run
      box 19 Wells, Linton, June 9, 1940 (speech given at Camp Legion
                  and Willow Run)
      box 39 Scrapbooks: 75th Birthday Greetings from Camp Legion, 1938
             79th Birthday Greetings from the Boys of Willow Run Camp, 1942
‚Äč             79th Birthday Greetings from Camp Legion, 1942
             80th Birthday Greetings from Camp Legion, 1943

   Acc. 285 Henry Ford Office papers
      box 2113 Camp Legion, 1938
      box 2277 Camp Legion, Camp Willow Run, 1939-1940
      box 2450 Camp Legion, Camp Willow Run, 1938-1942
      box 2482 Camp Legion, 1941-1942
      box 2632 Camp Legion, 1943-1944
      box 2804 Camp Legion, 1945-1946
      box 2836 Henry Ford School of Vocational Guidance in Agriculture
              and Industry; formerly Camp Legion, 1945-1946

   Acc. 983 Henry Ford Trade School, Administrative Files series
      box 2 Camp Legion; correspondence, 1944-46
                Camp Legion; Project, supplement #1, 1946
                Camp Legion; Project, supplement #1 alternate, 1946

   Acc. 13 Engineering Library Vertical File
      box 4 Camp Legion and Camp Willow Run, 1938-1941 (2 folders)
                (includes student newspapers)
      box 25 Willow Run Camp Newsletter, n.d.

   Acc. 38 Charles E. Sorensen Office Files
      box 101 Camp Legion, 1944
      box 104 Camp Legion, 1945

   Acc. 44 William John Cameron records subgroup
      box 16 Camp Legion, 1940-1944

   Acc. 446 Dealer Film Subject File subseries
      box 7 Subject file: Camp Legion and Willow Run movie, c. 1934-1942

   Acc. 559 E. M. Anderson records
      box 1 Dearborn: Camp Legion, 1945-1946

   Acc. 1865 Ford Motor Company Branch Operations Records
      folder 1 Data: Camp Legion, 1946

   Acc. 1685 Photographic Library (Earle Hager) records series
      box 2 "Camp Legion and Camp Willow Run," undated

   Acc. 951 Ford Motor Company Non-Serial Publications Collection
      box 5 Camp Legion and Camp Willow Run, 1949
      box 53 Welcome to Camp Legion, n.d.

   Acc. 408 Plant Engineering Floor Space records
      box 3 Layouts: Camp Legion, c. 1938-1948

   Acc. 524 Plant Engineering Department
      box 1 Henry Ford Properties: Camp Legion, c. 1920-1950

   Acc. 454 Division executives records series
      box 3 Camp Legion, c. 1927-1947

   Acc. 536 Public Relations Research Library press releases subseries
      box 148 Camp Legion and Henry Ford School of Vocational Guidance 

   Acc. 1 Fair Lane papers
      box 123 Camp Legion and Willow Run Chapels, correspondence and
                    promotional materials, 1938-1949

   Acc. 391 Wendell S. Miller records subseries
      box 2 Camps Legion & Willow Run, 1941-1946

   Acc. 33 General subject files subseries, Auditing department
      box 26 Camp Legion 1938

   Acc. 435 Charles C. La Croix Records
      box 40 Subject File: Willow Run; Camp Willow Run

  Engineering and Aperture cards
      drawer 4 Camp Legion, Camp Willow Run
      drawer 8 Vocational Education - Camp Legion

   Acc. 1660 Photographic Vertical File series
      box 67 Camps – Michigan – Camp Legion (2 folders)
                  Camps – Michigan – Camp Willow Run

   Acc. 188 Personal for Henry Ford photographs subseries
      23285-288 Back to Farm Project – Camp Legion, 1938

      23338-351 Back to Farm Project – Camp Legion, 1938

      23356-358 Opening Day, Camp Back to Farm Project, 1938

      24041-054 Camp Legion produce, 1938

      24131-133 Closing of Camp Legion
      25304 Chapel at Camp Legion, 1939
      25396-399 Ford tractor cultivation at Camp Legion, 1939
      25431-434 Camp Willow Run, 1939
      25478-486 Chapel dedication at Camp Legion, 1939
      25501-503 Camp Legion Chapel, 1939
      25504-511 Camp Willow Run and Market, 1939
      25512-516 Camp Legion Market, 1939
      25548-555 Camp Willow Run progress, 1939
      25598-606 Camp Willow Run, 1939
      25642-646 Camp Willow Run, 1939
      25700-706 Willow Run – Camp Legion, 1939
      25973-975 Ford tractor with potato digger – Camp Legion, 1939
      26004-009 Chelsea High School – Camp Legion produce exhibit, 1939
      26035-0112 Camp Willow Run progress, 1939
      26094-117 Ford tractor cultivating in orchard – Camp Legion, 1939
      26489-493 Christmas Tree at Camp Legion, 1939
      27273-274 Camp Legion chapel at Willow Run, 1940
      27845-849 Chapel – Camp Willow Run, 1940
      29681-683 Camp Legion – Willow Run, 1941
      71213-235 Camp Legion opening, 1943
      72404-409 Threshing oats with combines - Camp Legion, 1944
      73156-161 Preparing meals at Camp Legion, 1945
      73162-166 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73183-192 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73247-259 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73260-266 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73288-295 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73298-301 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73322-333 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73350-360 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73558-568 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945
      73581-591 Progress at Camp Legion, interior and exterior, 1945
      73772-775 Progress at Camp Legion, 1945

   Acc. 833 General Photographs series

      box 74 Camp Legion (203a)
      box 75 Camp Legion (6 folders, 203b - 204b)
      box 76 Camp Legion (2 folders, 204c-204d)

Ford News

  Camp Legion (Dearborn, MI)
   A New Lease On Life (Ford program for poor boys). 19:12:280+:1-3
   A School Vacation Project (Ford farm camps for underprivileged boys), 21:1:13+:1-3
   They Pay Their Way (Ford farm camps for underprivileged boys), 20:12:274+: 1-3
  Camp Willow Run (Ypsilanti, MI)
   Ford Looks Forward to 1942 (Ford film about it shown at press conference), 21:10:257+:1-3
   A School Vacation Project (Ford farm camps for underprivileged boys), 21:1:13+:1-3
   They Pay Their Way (Ford farm camps for underprivileged boys), 20:12:274+:1-3
   Willow Run: Another Village Industry. 21:3:72+:1-3

Oral Histories
   65_112 F. W. Loskowske
   65_210 Charles Voorhess
   65_174 Frederick Searle
   65_122 William Mielke
   65_230 A. G. Wolfe

Vertical File

   Camp Legion
      Sons of WWI Veterans, 1938-1940
      WWII Veterans, 1944-1945

   Camp Willow Run

Books and Secondary
   Friends, Families, and Forays: Scenes from the life and times of Henry Ford. Ford R. Bryan. 
      338.76292 F699 B915 2002

   The Public Image of Henry Ford: An American folk hero and his company. David L Lewis.
      338.762 F699 L673 1976

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Benson Ford Research Center
The Henry Ford
P.O. Box 1970
Dearborn, Michigan, USA 48121-1970